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How three creators are flexing metal in new directions

Forever championing human creativity

'It’s a lifetime of love,' says London-based maker Ane Christensen of her bond with metal. For almost 25 years, she’s been producing sculptural pieces, abstract bowls, wall hangings and large scale installations in silver, steel and brass that have optical illusions in their forms, which she describes as a meeting of 'contrasts and balance’.

The idea of a kinship with the material rings true for the founder of Novocastrian too. Metalwork is in Richy Almond’s blood. 'I'm from a long line of shipbuilders who crafted steel-hulled warships and tankers on the River Tyne,' he says. Novocastrian, based in the North East of England, repurposes historic shipbuilding crafts to create its furniture – from consoles to mirrors – bringing them into the modern world.

Journal - Metal Making - Body Image 2 Novocastrian

Relationships with metal require hard graft. 'Steel is both flexible and frustrating,' Almond says. Yet for Marta Sala, founder of Milan-based Marta Sala Éditions, the effort involved ‘gives soul’ to the furniture. She started working at her family’s furniture making business at 23 years old, before setting up her eponymous brand in 2015, which pushes the boundaries of materials, taking what she describes as a 'Bauhaus project approach', defined by a rigorous attention to design and quality. To create her collections, Sala pairs the architects and designers Claudio Lazzarini and Carl Pickering with highly skilled artisans, who use 20 different finishing techniques to give the metal its character.

Meanwhile, Christensen creates the illusion of effortlessness with her work, but it is 'physically hard to shape those lines,' she admits of the grooves in her ‘Dented Bowl’ series.

Journal - Metal Making - Body Image 2-1

All three creators have alternating journeys with metal. Almond’s team often uses traditional blacksmithing techniques for blackening steel, like for the ‘Staiths Console’ table. Its skeletal silhouette is inspired by the Victorian industrial structures in the River Tyne, which were once used to help steam trains full of coal load up waiting barges. The techniques used are similar for the console, involving cutting lengths of steel bar and welding them into a frame, into which panels of brass or steel are fixed for the shelving.

Christensen thinks slightly differently. 'I'm not interested in the techniques,' she explains. To her, they are simply problem solvers – routes to making objects look as if they are floating or spilling. However, she has perfected the craft of hand-piercing, which she uses when creating the ‘Dented Bowl’ series. There’s no room for error with this precise technique: the bowl is made from a single sheet of metal, using the Egyptian technique of spinning over a wooden form on a lathe, before the piercing begins.

'Stability, proportion, comfort and durability' is what metal brings to Sala's furniture, she says, but its benefits are aesthetic too. Take the undulating legs of the ‘Mathus’ table, designed by Lazzarini Pickering in 2016. Among the 15 different metal finishes used to create the piece, it's the way the bronze is galvanised with nickel that adds 'deepness to it', Sala believes.

The complex layers of metal keep these creators coming back for more. For Christensen, no other material would allow her to create geometric forms that seem to float in mid-air, while for Almond, metal enables him to tell a story about his family’s industrial heritage in a luxury design context. And for Sala, it lends a unique character to her curvaceous furniture. Metal can be both delicate and robust – contrasting qualities that are endlessly compelling for designers.

Journal - Metal Making - Body Image 3 Tata Wall Mirror by Novocastrian

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